Last week I announced that we'd started
the countdown towards factory-made plastic Icehouse pieces, and
I posted our most up-to-date plans for how to package and market
those pieces. Well, a lot has happened since then - this product
is really starting to come together.
First and foremost, I've invented a new game! It's called
Here's what happened. We got quite an outpouring of excitement
after last week's announcement, and among the many comments and
questions we received was the following: "Are there any
plans to develop other real time games that are less complex
that have a shorter learning curve? Icehouse is very interesting,
however as noted only die hard gamers have the patience to learn
This got me to thinking. It is well known that we've been
looking for a new game to be played with Icehouse pieces that
would be easy to learn, incredibly fun, dependent upon the stacking
feature of the new pieces, and requiring of no additional equipment.
Our codename for this as-yet-undeveloped game has for years been
So, I was already pondering the possibilities for a new game.
However, I wasn't even considering anything turnless... that's
a design idea that I think we've all been kind of afraid to re-visit.
Nevertheless, as soon as I started thinking about it, I knew
that Glotz had to be a real-time game... and not only that, I
had some ideas for making it work! I stayed up all night, conducting
thought experiments in my game design laboratory, and by morning's
light, I had everything but mining figured out.
When Kristin woke up and read my notes, she made a set for
playtesting, by cutting the bases off of a set of origami pieces.
We'd been figuring we couldn't do any serious playtesting until
we had pieces in hand, but actually, bottomless origami pieces
work extremely well. (If you've got a set you've never assembled
lying around, you can preview IceTowers... and actually, the
pieces are much easier to assemble if you cut the bottom panels
and flaps off first.)
IceTowers appears to have all the fun of Icehouse, and none
of its flaws. It is played in real-time, without turns, but it
doesn't suffer from the famous Icehouse stagnation problem. It's
played on an open flat surface, yet crashes aren't an issue,
and since it doesn't require stashpads, it is truly boardless.
Most of all, it's easy to teach, quick to learn, and totally
fun! Even the scoring system is simple compared to Icehouse.
It's great! (Even if I do say so myself...)
We've been playing it fairly nonstop this week, but it does
still need some playtesting and the rules may change slightly
between now and publication. (The Infinite Loop problem could
do with a better solution, for example.) But there's no question
in our minds that this is the game we've been looking for. We're
dropping the two version release schedule I described last week,
and we've settled on which games we'll include in the package:
IceTowers, IceTraders, Zarcana, and Martian Chess.
thing we've been struggling with this week is the name of the
product. Having decided not to include the rules for Icehouse
in with the product, it seems odd to call it Icehouse, yet with
several strong games in the package, it's hard to call it anything
else. For a few days we were thinking to name the product "Beyond
Icehouse" (until some focus group testing at the local game
store proved that this sounded negative to some people) and for
a few minutes we thought about calling it "Martian Zarcana
Towers", but finally we hit upon the idea of really embracing
the whole Mars angle, and saying that "icehouse" is
simply a Martian word that translates to "little pyramids",
with the name of the product then being "Icehouse: The Martian
Chess Set". Alison created a logo that reinforces this notion,
by making Icehouse look like a word in an alien language, with
the translation for the word appearing under it, in English.
As a result of all the product refinements we've made this
week, I've massively re-worked the Under
The Hood document to reflect our latest thinking... check
it out if you're interested in the gory details.
Meanwhile, a factory in Baltimore is moving towards the creation
of our mold. The company we're going with actually isn't the
one I announced a few weeks ago we'd chosen... no sooner did
I post that than we received another quote, this one from a place
right nearby called KLON, who saw the Daily
Record article and approached us for any plastic work we
might be doing. And they had the best price, too! So they're
the ones who got the job.
The picture above was sent to us yesterday by Duane, the mold
designer working on our job. (Thanks Duane!) It's a computer-rendered
image of the detailed 3-D model for our pieces, and it shows
that they should interact properly, both for stacking and nesting.
This means that the long awaited answer to the question, will
the pieces be the same size, is YES! And contrary to the way
they look in this image, the pieces will be translucent.
Anyway, things are looking good and the project is moving
forward nicely. I hope you're getting excited about Icehouse...
we sure are!